Fawning Over Assad
A delegation of Israeli Arabs visited Syria — and
came back praising that nation's brutal regime.
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V American Heart Association
is not easy being an Israeli
Arab, some 800,000 of whom
spend their lives tying them-
selves into knots trying to fig-
ure out who they are.
Israeli Arabs — those Arabs
who live within the borders of
old Green Line — have a
poignant struggle trying to win
acceptance in a society that dis-
criminates against them in any
number of ways, while often
feeling angry and ashamed as
they watch the Palestinians of
the territories — whom they
lived with until 1948 — suffer
under the occupation.
The Jews call them "Israeli
Arabs." Since the intifada,
they've begun calling them-
selves "Israeli Palestinians" or
"Arabs living in Israel."
After the Hebron massacre,
they ran through the streets of
their villages and cities, throw-
ing rocks and bottles because
their own people had been
killed in the Cave of the Patri-
archs, and because they, too,
have a long-standing gripe
with this country.
Their loyalty is questioned
by Israelis, Palestinians and
Arabs at large, they are neither
here nor there. And so it was a
little pathetic to watch a dele-
gation of 57 Israeli Arabs, in-
cluding two Knesset members,
jump through hoops last week
during their visit to Syria at
President Hafez Assad's invi-
After four days, the Israeli
Arabs came home in an ebul-
lient mood, without even real-
izing how they had been used.
The head of the Arab Demo-
cratic Party delegation, MK Abd
el-Wahab Daroushe, had been
trying to wangle the invitation
ever since President Assad's
son, Basil, was killed in a car
crash a couple of months ago.
Ostensibly, it was to be a con-
dolence visit, but obviously
there was a larger purpose in-
Prime Minister Yitzhak Ra-
bin pushed for the invitation,
saying it would be an important
"political signal" firm Syria. But
President Assad, world-
renowned for his patience, took
Finally he relented, but not
without laying down a list of ar-
No Jews would be allowed.
The visitors could not enter Syr-
ia from Israel, and they could
not travel on Israeli passports.
They were forced to fly to Dam-
ascus via Cairo, with temporary
passports supplied by the Egyp-
One of the many Israeli Arab
journalists who traveled with
the delegation wrote in Yediot
Aharonot: "Before the flight,
[Daroushe] told us we were to
behave according to the terms
dictated by 'our Syrian broth-
ers,' known to be very strict peo-
ple who are sensitive to
everything connected to Israel.
We made sure not to leave any
trace of the Hebrew language
on our belongings. We removed
everything, and some even tore
the [Hebrew) labels off their
The Israelis were a tremen-
dous curiosity for the Syrians.
"Whom do you represent?"
they were asked by reporters
when they arrived. "We repre-
sent the Arabs of the Galilee,
the Negev and the Arab Man-
gle [northern-central Israel],"
replied Mr. Daroushe.
At least in the beginning of
the trip, there was no mention
made that the delegation was
from Israel, nor that there were
two Knesset members along,
even though it was well known
Euphemisms were employed.
The Israelis were "Arabs from
1948," according to the Syrians.
At one point, Mr. Daroushe,
who himself lives near
Nazareth, reportedly described
the delegation members as
"Arabs living in occupied Pales-
tine." (He denied this in an in-